Tag Archive | Minnesota Twins

Love-Hate Relationships

Relationships. So many different kinds we have in life. We have so many with relationships with people such as lovers, friends, parents, siblings, co-workers, frenemies, virtual friends. We also have them with objects. Some of us even have them with sporting teams.  And yes, I would be one who has a relationship with sporting teams.  Most of the time, I have a great deal of love for my White Sox.  But there are times when the team plays so badly that I hate them.  On the flip side of that, I generally have a bit of a hate for the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.  Rarely do I have much love for either of those teams.  I can’t say that I have that kind of emotion for the Cleveland Indians or Kansas City Royals, but that is because those teams have been so bad for such a long time, that they don’t worry me as being any real competition or threat to the White Sox.

However, the Minnesota Twins really test my patience as far as a love hate relationship goes with something.  I was very excited and actively rooted against them in the 2010 playoffs against the Yankees.  I was an unabashed fan of the Yankees and it was because I dislike the Twins getting to the playoffs so much.  Granted, the reason they were there was because they played well and my White Sox blew it on so many occasions.  The Twins have also owned the White Sox like the Yankees have owned the Twins.  As much fun as it was to enjoy the Yankees making the Twins look silly, it was also painful to watch.  Mainly because I missed that my team wasn’t in the playoffs.

Of course, at the same time, watching the Twins make the playoffs yet again, made me wish that my team had an organization like the Twins do in a lot of ways.  If there is one nice thing I can say about Kenny Williams, the general manager for the White Sox it is that he is aggressive and will take a chance at finding lighting in a bottle and getting that key piece that is needed.  Something that truly irks me about the organization though is that from top to bottom, I don’t see everyone being on the same page.

In examining the Twins organization, they stress that what players do at the Major League level is the same stuff they expect from players in instructional league.  Players don’t advance to the next level until the organization is satisfied that a player will do things the right way.  This was super important for the Twins because they are a small market team that didn’t have a lot of revenue to go a buy the necessary pieces that were needed for a championship.  Because of this, they had to ensure their home-grown players were ready when they moved to the next level.  What is so cool about this (and irritating if you support a team NOT the twins) is that if a player at the Major League level gets hurt then the guy who is in the minors can easily be plugged in to that position and fill that void left.  It is as if the MLB player didn’t disappear because the guy who replaced him is more than adequate to handle things.  This is especially noticeable when it comes to defense.

I truly hate, yet am supremely envious of this.  Generally, the Twins are one of the best defensive teams in MLB and they rarely beat themselves with dumb mistakes that will lead to runs being score by the other team, whether by error or giving the other team extra outs to make plays.  When guys go down, they don’t miss a beat.  And this fact about the Twins makes me love them and hate myself for loving an “enemy” so much for what they do top to bottom.  Great examples from the 2010 season was early on, Joe Nathan, their closer had to have Tommy John surgery, which meant he was done before the season even began.  The guy who filled in for him, did an ok job and then at the trade deadline in July, they went and picked up a guy to help them out even more to help solidify the bullpen.  The 3rd baseman, Danny Valencia who ended the season did not appear in the line up for the Twins until June and he just slide right in.  He came up big for the team late down the stretch run as well.  Very few of the players on the roster are not home-grown.  And seeing how well they play, I am envious and kind of hate that they have so much GOOD home-grown talent. Of course, the player i love-hate the most is Joe Mauer.  He is their catcher and the way he goes about playing the game as well as the daily beating he takes as a catcher is just amazing.

On the other hand, when I see these things, it makes me sad that my team’s farm system is so depleted.  For the most part, I am on board with the idea that prospects are good for using to obtain pieces that are proven that will help you with the ultimate goal of winning a championship.  However, when I see the major league players who seem to be completely lacking in any concept of fundamental play, such as if you’re throwing a relay play from the outfield to make sure you hit the cut-off man to prevent the base runners from advancing, I get very sad because it seems to so rarely happen that those fundamentals are put into play.   In the past 10 years, the white sox have had VERY FEW players on the roster who are home-grown talent.  On the 2010 roster, only 1 pitcher and 1 position player for the entire season were home-grown.  And when injuries happened, it seemed like the replacements were just not quite ready, but as a fan I had to deal with those guys because there wasn’t anyone else to fill in.

I know many sox fans may disagree with me because there seemed to be a lack of hitting during the season and some of the players who filled in were relatively good with the bat, but in my opinion, those guys were horrible with the glove and that hurt the team more due to possibly committing an error and the pitcher being  unable to pitch over it or maybe giving the opposition more than 3 outs to work with.   What I can hope is good news is that in the last few years the White Sox have been doing some overhauling of the minor league system and perhaps there will be a little more focus on truly developing prospects as opposed to developing enough to trade them away.  Thus far, none of the prospects trade away have burned the team, but who knows when that day will actually come.  I would just like to once in a while see some home-grown talent and if the team needs to call upon those guys, I won’t be watching that guy playing with a bottle of tums worried he is going to be beyond horrible handling a glove.

Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa in October!

October 6, 2010.  The date the Yankees begin the 11 game trek to accomplish Mission 28, i.e. winning world series title 28 in the team’s history.  It is also just hours away from the start of the NHL season.  Or better, the campaign for the defense of the Stanley Cup by the Blackhawks.  As a baseball addict and huge lover of the Chicago Blackhawks, this is such an exciting time.  I don’t necessarily care who wins the World Series — well as long as it is not the Minnesota Twins, but post season baseball is the bomb.  The eight teams that make the post season have a fresh start and anything can happen.  Particularly when in the first round when it is a best of 5 series.  You get a team that is firing at all cylinders and they can be dangerous.  Add a top flight pitching staff with potential aces as your 1-3 game starters and it could be amazing.

Even though my team is out of the playoffs this year I still will find someone and something to root for.  Whether it is the Texas Rangers getting to the playoffs and the amazing story of Josh Hamilton, Dusty Baker leading the Cincinnati Reds to the playoffs and being only the 2nd manager to lead 3 different teams to the playoffs, the Yankees going for it again, etc., there is always something fun to see.  I am hoping to see some amazingly pitched games as well as stellar defense to back up the pitching.  A few magnificent runs would be great as well.  Whatever happens, it will be fun guaranteed.

As for hockey season beginning, it is going to be fun.  Even though the Blackhawks lost a lot of key players due to salary cap issues after winning the Cup in June, I still like the way the team looks. There is still depth there and the core is still there.  It is going to be an exciting season to watch.  It will be a little sad seeing some of the former Blackhawk players on other teams, but such is the business of sports where you can’t keep everyone you would like to.  That can be for a number of reasons, but generally they can all be summed up as due to the almighty dollar.

My guess is that I won’t be fully engaged in the hockey season until the baseball post season is over, but that is ok.  I wasn’t fully engaged in baseball until the Stanley Cup had been decided.  Here is to an exciting post season coming up as well as a phenomenal start to the hockey season for the Blackhawks.

My King is most likely leaving me

Paulie.  The King.  The Captain.  Harvester of Sorrow.  Class Act.  One of the nicest players ever.  Hard Working.  Generous.  Unassuming.  Even keel.

When I think about Paul Konerko, the first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, the above are many of the words that come to mind when I think about him.  And I probably have seen his last game as a member of the Chicago White Sox.  Fortunately, the team ended the 2010 season at home so I was able to go to the last few games and see him play.  As it was the final game, I had to go and am glad I did.  Admittedly, I had thought about not going to the game because I could have done a ton of stuff at home, but given that it could very well be the last time I see Paul take an at-bat in a sox uniform, hear Harvester of Sorrow by Metallica played as his walk-up music.  I had to attend this game.  It was also potentially the last game that A.J. Pierzynski plays as a member of the White Sox as well, but with Paul, it felt more like saying good-bye to a really reliable friend who was leaving.

On thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, Paul had a session with the media where he discussed his upcoming free agency and what the future may hold for him.  The comments that Konerko made struck me as extremely honest and frankly quite refreshing to hear.  Granted, they were not exactly something a long time fan of his would want to hear, but I greatly appreciate his honesty as over the years, I feel that I have come to expect nothing less of him.  A few things that struck me that Konerko said with regard to his free agency had to do with what he was looking for in terms of expectations, the “home town” discount and how to catch the Minnesota Twins.

With regard to catching the Twins: “The Twins are a good team, a great team, and more than that they go about it the right way.  You have to go out and catch them.  They’re not going to come back to you.  With the talent and the people here we can do that if we tidy up some tings and get a little better with some things and move their way, move toward. them.”  With regard to tidying things up and whether that meant on or off the field, Konerko said, “A little bit of both, a little bit of everything.”

I can only speculate about what he means when he says a little bit of tidying up off the field, but it does make me wonder if the drama off the field between Kenny Williams, the GM for the White Sox and Ozzie Guillen, the manager did actually get to the players and potentially mess with what the players were trying to do.  The off the field drama was in my opinion ridiculous.  I really hope it wasn’t a distraction to the players, despite it keeping the Chicago sports media busy with things to talk about on a never ending basis.  The statement also makes me wonder if there is still some anger in the fact that Ozzie said no to the idea of Jim Thome, who is an incredibly close friend of Paul’s coming back to the sox for the 2010 season.   As much as Ozzie has said blame him for the decision, I think Kenny is to blame just as much since as the GENERAL MANAGER who brings the players to the team to be managed, he could have brought Jim Thome back if he really wanted to do it.  Unless the ultimate motive was to make Ken Williams look as good as possible while throwing his manager under the bus.

In terms of expectations for free agency, I like and appreciate that Konerko is not going into things thinking he should get a particular number of years and / or money to continue playing.  He seems to want to see what the market is for his services and then go from there in deciding what to do next.  Last off season was not kind to veteran players.  Jermaine Dye ended up not playing in the 2010 season because of what he was looking for in terms of position (not keen on being a DH), length of contract, etc.  He had offers to play, but for him the situations presented were not to his liking, so he sat out.  Perhaps he will play again in 2011, but who knows.  Johnny Damon was another veteran who it took some time to sign because of what he was looking for in terms of salary and playing time.  He eventually ended up with the Detroit Tigers, but for only one year.  While things were unkind to veterans in the 2009 off season, I did hear that Konerko could set the market for the 2010 free agent first baseman class.  Either way, I hope he can get what is most beneficial to him and allows him to enjoy playing the game a few more years.

The most surprising of the comments is that money isn’t a huge factor.  In discussing his future, Konerko is very honest in that he has his family to think about since he has a 5 year old and a 2 year old.  Or as he said, real little people walking around.  From the comments, it really seems that he is probably going to leave Chicago, even though he would like to stay.  In his comments he said that even if the white sox give more money / years, he still may end up leaving.  In other words, there isn’t necessarily a home town discount to keep him.  This is because of uncertainty in the direction the team is going, where he would fit into those plans and something that he stressed, but whether there is a need for him from any team.

Overall in listening to his comments, I get the sense that while he feels he has a few more years left to play, he would be ok with not being offered anything this off season.  He said his goal when he was in the minors was to make the majors and play in one place for 10 years at the same position.  He’s accomplished that with 2 additional years to boot.  And as a long time white sox fan, I greatly appreciate everything he has done for the team.  Mainly though, based on everything in total, I feel as though I have seen the last of Paul Konerko playing in a White Sox uniform.  The comments regarding more years / money from sox vs. another team really do it for me.  Surprisingly, I am ok with that.  For some time, I have felt the team needs to move in a different direction to get back to the world series and if in order to accomplish that goal, Konerko and the White Sox need to part ways, then so be it.

He has given me immense joy watching him play with my favorite team and for that I will always be grateful for what he did.  I have never attended Sox Fest so I have never met him, but from those who have, they say he is a wonderful person.   I do have an autographed photo and signed ball by him and I love that I have these items in my collection of white sox stuff.  Thank you Paul for the time you’ve been here and I really do hope things align in the universe so that you can finish your career and retire as a member of the White Sox.  Whenever you do hang it up, I have no doubt that Jerry will erect a statute to commemorate your service on the outfield concourse.

Fan complex over attendance?

Clearly, I have been highly neglectful of my blog.  Why?  Because of being busy at work doing stuff and watching baseball.  In any event, I have to talk about a few things that bugged me this past season in baseball and there were a few.  Sorry if the next few posts will be about old things, but once I get those out of the way, I hope to have new opinions and perspectives on things.  So much has gone in the world of sports, so I need to get caught up so I can stay on top of the sports happenings.

The week of August 9th was interesting. My White Sox began a 6 day home stand against our biggest division rivals: the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers. These series were both huge in terms of standings. The White Sox had gone on a tear in early June and by the All-Star break were in first place. After the break, they continued playing relatively well and winning games. At the start of the current home stand however, they had fallen into a tie for 1st place with the Twins because of the Twins having a hot streak and the White Sox losing 3 of 4 to the Baltimore Orioles, the WORST team in baseball. The O’s however, had gotten a new manager, Buck Showalter and had been playing their best ball of the entire season.

In any event, during the 3 game set against the Twins, a curious thing happened.  Instead of people talking about how 2 teams were battling it out for first place and focusing on the baseball, were more into discussing the lousy attendance at the games.  Truth be told, the sad attendance we had at those games was appalling to me, especially since I attend most games and the more fans that are there, the more fun games CAN be at times.  In listening to sports talk radio (which probably is not good for my sanity), I heard lots of interesting excuses for why fans were not going to the games.  These ranged from: the only seats available are in the upper deck and those seats are horrible, the tickets cost too much, the team is bad, food and drink costs too much, there is nothing to do around the park after the game, etc.  I will be the first person to NOT argue with a person who does not feel a need to spend the extra income they may have on a baseball game.  In this economy, the money spent for a ticket and food / drink could easily pay for a meal for a family.  Not to mention, there are many who don’t even have a job to think about going to a game.
To the fans who complain about the bad seats, I would guess those are people who have not been to US Cellular field since the renovations in 2003.  Before the renovations and the ball park was a pitcher’s park, the upper deck was not a great place to see a game.  The area was very steep (although, not steep like Soldier Field where the Chicago Bears play) and you felt very far away from the game.  Now, however, it is not nearly as steep, unless you are in the very top rows, and that only happens for sold out games.  I have heard some complain about the price that is charged for tickets in the upper deck.  When people complain about that who say they would go, except for the amount of those tickets and they can’t sit in the lower deck, I don’t feel bad.  Make no mistake that I am complaining of how people are spending money.  This irritation is directed at those who would go, but for inability to sit in the lower deck.  First of all, there are no bad seats in the upper deck.  In fact, I think you have a BETTER view of the game because you can see everything happening on the field.  You also get a better read on balls hit so you know whether it will be a home run or not.  I’ve sat all over the ball park and really the only bad seats are in the LOWER DECK near the foul poles because you have an obstructed view there. I know some like sitting there because you are “closer to the action” and I don’t begrudge that, but don’t say you won’t go to games because you think the upper deck is so bad, especially if you haven’t sat there since before 2002.
As for ticket prices keeping you away, well, the cubs actually cost more.  I recently went to a cubs game (because I am an awesome friend) and purchasing tickets for the 400 level was nearly $55 dollars going through the cubs website.  Luckily I saved a lot of money because I went on stubhub to get the tickets for at least $25 less.  In any event, I do think it is ok for people to say “i prefer to watch the game at a bar or in my living room than going to the ball park” rather than coming up with some excuse that when really examined is just lame.  Own up to real reason for not going to the games.  If the sox can only draw 20,000 fans regularly, so be it.  Eventually they will find a way to draw more fans and sell out when there are huge series against a division rival when the division lead is on the line.  Maybe not while things are bad, but eventually.  at least i can hope.

Roller Coaster

The White Sox are on an incredible run. Beginning on June 8, 2010, they started to get great pitching. Sadly, they lost that game to Detroit, but then they went on an amazing run. They took the next 2 games against Detroit and then went on a feast of National League playing. 2 of 3 from the Cubs and the last game in that series against the Cubs was amazing. Next up, a sweep of the Pirates, Nationals and coming home to sweep the Atlanta Braves. Finally, another series with the Cubs and there again, they take 2 of 3.

During this amazing streak, the white sox climbed to back over .500 and more importantly, found themselves right back in the AL Central race, trailing the Twins by only a couple of games. This is all great, but there is one thing that seems to be off to me and that is all the fans who are ready to print world series tickets today. That attitude really drives me nuts because those same people were on the panic bus day 2 of the season and were calling for the team to be blown up. I’d even hazard money that those people weren’t even going to games.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that the Sox are playing super well. It is also nice that now the GM Kenny Williams is in the market to buy and not sell players. This is all good and fine, except as i look around at possible available players, there just doesn’t seem to be much out there that will make THE difference in my opinion. Names tossed around are Adam Dunn of Washington, Lance Berkman of Houston, Luke Scott of Baltimore and of course, Adrian Gonzalez of San Diego. All would be nice lefty bats, and while they would make a difference, I don’t think we would get past the first round if any of those guys were added.

Adam Dunn: Lefty bat, strikes out a TON, but his production is predictable. He also can play the field, but to me, he seems like a limited Jim Thome (no slam on Jim as I adore him). Mike Rizzo, GM of the Nationals, has already stated that the price for Dunn would be steep. From the White Sox perspective, that means giving up a TON. May even include Beckham in addition to Daniel Hudson, Jordan Danks, etc. As much as I don’t really care for prospects who are unproven, I am kind of tired of never giving the prospects a chance to develop, not to mention constantly depleting the minors so that when you desperately need someone, you can’t because you refuse to develop talent.

Lance Berkman: Lefty bat (switch hits), aging, has had recent injury issues and while he would agree for a trade, he really wants someone to pick up his option. Injuries and what Houston would want in return just doesn’t place the balance in his favor in my opinion. Mainly, Berkman is not a choice for me because of injuries and I don’t need that on the team (despite having Herm Schnieder aka Dr. Pain to repair our guys).

Adrian Gonzalez: Lefty bat, plays good first and well, he is beyond proven. Amazing power for a guy pitching in PETCO park, i.e. he hits bombs a ton in a pitcher’s park. Why he is a pipe dream? The Padres are in 1st place and *if* the Padres were to trade him, they would want a ton, much the same that Mike Rizzo would want.

I do want the Sox to pick up another bat, but I don’t want it to be someone who causes issues that the team was trying to get away from in the past of having a base clogger, who strikes out a ton and is streaky and the hot streaks are not coming enough or at the right times. I know I can take solace in the fact that the Twins and Detroit pitching staffs are weaker than what the Sox have when they are going well. Also, the hitting for the Sox is coming around. I hope things continue to go well, but unless they are going all the way guaranteed, I just can’t get overly excited about the team playing the way they should have been playing all season long.